SOLDIER HOLLOW, Utah (Jan. 3) — For Americans Andrew Johnson (Greensboro, VT) and Rebecca Dussault (Gunnison, CO), 2006 is starting off on the right foot after capturing the first two U.S. titles in the opening races of the 2006 U.S. Cross Country Championships at Soldier Hollow, site of the 2002 Olympic nordic races. Johnson celebrated his 28th birthday by taking the title in the men’s mass start 30K freestyle event, while Dussault captured her eighth U.S. title — her fifth at Soldier Hollow — with a win in the women’s 15K freestyle race.
Rebecca Dussault (center), Morgan Arritola (left) and Abigail Larson on the Soldier Hollow podium (credit: Sharbel Dussault)
The U.S. Championships results will be considered as part of the criteria for making the U.S. Olympic Team, to be announced January 17.
â€œBetween the new snow and the warm weather, it was about as hard as a ski race can get,â€ said Johnson, who won two U.S. title in 2005 including last year’s 30K free. â€œFairly early on I knew I felt strong compared to the other people in the front of the pack. We were keeping a fairly fast pace, but I was still comfortable. At about the 20K mark, the pack broke up a bit but I left like I had a lot more to give.â€
Besides feeling strong, Johnson said he has had several good weeks of training prior to the U.S. Championships. He has lived in Park City since the summer of 1999 and trains often at Soldier Hollow. â€œI do particularly well on skate courses,â€ he said. â€œAnd I’ve generally had pretty good experiences here as well.â€
Dussault also has had her fair share of success at Soldier Hollow: She won three U.S. titles there in 2005 and one in 2001. â€œFor me, this is a special place to race,â€ she said. â€œI’ve won half of my U.S. titles here. I always try my best when I’m at Soldier Hollow.â€
Dussault faced even slushier conditions than the men in the afternoon, but she credited â€œa great new pair of Solomon skisâ€ and skilled wax technicians for giving her that extra edge.
â€œThis was the first time all year that we’ve skied in these conditions,â€ said Dussault, who also won three U.S. titles in Rumsford, Maine, in 2004. â€œIt’s been so cold everywhere we have been, so getting everything dialed in was a big part of today’s success.â€
Dussault said she also has finally shaken her second bout with sinusitis, which knocked her out for part of last season then snuck up for a return visit in early November. But the best part of her day was finally telling her four-year-old son Tabor the answer he’s been waiting to hear all season.
â€œAfter every race he asks me, â€˜Momma, did you win?’â€ Dussault recounted. â€œToday I could finally tell him, â€˜Momma won!’ and he started to cry he was so happy. Having him involved makes such a difference.â€
The races continue at Soldier Hollow Thursday, Jan. 5, with freestyle sprints.
Source: US Ski Team